Spread the word: Using Outriggers and Spreader Plates to Maximise Safety

If it is possible and practicable to do so, why do employers still not comply to health and safety standards and lower the number of accidents that happen onsite when operating MEWP-type platforms?

According to recent studies from the HSE, some of the most significant MEWP dangers arise from the misuse of equipment. Major contributing factors to assess before use are the surrounding environment and the stability of the equipment to name but two.   

All MEWPS rely on the ground conditions on which they stand for their stability so it’s crucial that the equipment is set up with outriggers and spreader plates (unless stated otherwise) in order to maximise stability and reduce potential injury.

Adapting to the environment
It is important to remember that MEWPS fitted with outriggers should always be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; not all equipment is the same so it is not correct to assume what may work in one environment or for one piece of equipment will work with another. The assessment of ground strength can vary from an inspection to a full survey so a competent and qualified person should be on site to make sure the outriggers and spreader plates are used accordingly.

Ground Conditions
The conditions of the ground that you intend to carry out the work on must be assessed in the pre-inspection checks. Outriggers will allow the MEWPS to be stabilised on the ground safely with the spreader plates used to prevent the equipment sinking into the ground or uneven pressure being applied on the ground underneath.

MEWPs should only be used if the ground is safe; using outriggers will not automatically make an unsafe environment safe, they will only be a contributing factor to maximising stability.

When choosing the right spreader plates for your MEWP, refer back to the manufacturers manual or contact the manufacturer direct to ensure you have the right equipment to carry out your work.

A paved area may look strong, but the ground underneath may be weak when a heavy vehicle such as a MEWP is placed on top or likewise a sturdy soiled ground that is susceptible to holding weight may be uneven from recent pipework underground or adverse weather conditions softening the ground. This is why a competent person must always be available onsite to assess the area before work commences.

The Role of Spreader Plates
As a general rule of thumb, spreader plates should always be used under outriggers to make sure the weight of the MEWP is spread evenly, reducing the pressure on the ground underneath.

The foot of the outrigger should be centred on the plate, ensuring that the ground underneath is even. If there are dips or hollow areas in the ground below, these must be filled before a spreader plate is used on top.

Studies from IPAF’s recent ‘Spread the Load’ campaign reveal that up to 80% of a machine’s weight can rest on one outrigger, as the boom rotates over it, so there is a considerable risk of an accident happening if the outrigger is on an unstable ground.

Mentor can deliver a full range of working at height courses to a range of industry sectors. For more information on booking access training with mentor or for support on guidance working at height safely, get in touch with us today – 01246 386900. 

Associated Businesses

  • Mentor Training Solutions (MTS), the UK’s leading provider of equipment operator training and associated safety courses for the Waste Recycling, Local Authorities, Utilities, Civils, Facilities Management, Construction, Quarrying a...